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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

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Friday
Jan232015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 24, 2015

Times of Israel: "The White House's outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to speak before Congress in March -- a move he failed to coordinate with the administration -- began to seep through the diplomatic cracks on Friday, with officials telling Haaretz the Israeli leader had 'spat' in President Barack Obama's face.... Haaretz reported that Obama had personally demanded that Netanyahu tone down his pro-sanctions rhetoric in a phone call between the two last week. The Washington Post reported that Netanyahu's apparent disrespect for the US leadership was particularly offensive to Secretary of State John Kerry...." ...

... Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) surprise invitation to have Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress in March was 'inappropriate,' House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi charged Thursday. The California Democrat said that, not only did Boehner break congressional protocol by not consulting Democratic leaders about the invitation, but the timing of the speech -- coming just a few weeks ahead of Israel's contentious national elections -- hints that politics are at play." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "Netanyahu's office has tried to paper over the confrontation by calling the congressional invitation bipartisan. But Democrats were quick to note that is not true. Even American Jewish groups who seldom allow any daylight between themselves and the Israeli government appear shocked by Netanyahu's move and are having difficulty defended it."

Gail Collins on the sinking of the House's showboat anti-abortion bill. "'I'm going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,' Senator Lindsey Graham told the anti-abortion marchers. This was four days after Graham announced that he was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination. It's very possible that the phrase 'this definitional problem with rape' will last longer than his candidacy." CW: Yes, indeedy, Brother Lindsey is nudging his way into "legitimate rape" territory. Still, as Collins writes, "If you truly believe that human life begins the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, you can't admit any exceptions. The only real debate is whether you get to impose your religious beliefs on the entire country."

Alec MacGillis of Slate: "Now that Republicans are in control of both chambers of Congress, the push to slay Obamacare by a thousand cuts is officially underway. But if the first stab is any indication, Republicans are going to need some sharper knives. On Thursday, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the new chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, convened a hearing on one of the measures Republicans have been championing as a means to undermine the Affordable Care Act: changing the way it defines full-time work." It didn't go well. "'This,' said [Patty] Murray [Wash.], the committee's top Democrat, 'was a very good hearing.'" Read the whole post.

Jonathan Chait: "The Republican Party confidently and forthrightly rejects the firm conclusions of science on a major public-policy question. Isn't that a completely disqualifying position?... Even if you agreed with everything else the Republicans stood for, how could a party so obviously unhinged be entrusted with power?" ...

... CW: The problem is that science doesn't comport with Republican objectives and beliefs. For instance, in Slate, Kathryn Kolbert cites a Texas case in which four of five of the state's "expert" witnesses had to recant their testimony when the judge discovered "their" reports were produced by a notorious anti-abortion junk scientist. The witnesses themselves were unfamiliar with the works they cited in their own testimony. Initially, both they & the state lied to cover up the involvement of the discredited "scientist." This is the same phenomenon we see in Republicans' rejection of mainstream economic research. It isn't that Republicans are too stupid to understand climate science or economics or any sort of empirical evidence (though of course some are); it's that they are so committed to serving their own -- and their donors' -- interests, that they feel no compunction about lying through their teeth, sometimes even to themselves.

Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: Jorge Ramos, "the Walter Cronkite of Latino television," turns his critical attention from President Obama to Congressional Republicans over "deportation, deportation, deportation."

White House: "In this week's address, the President shared his plan, outlined in his State of the Union address earlier this week, to give hardworking families the support they need to make ends meet by focusing on policies that benefit the middle class and those working to reach the middle class":

Adam Liptak & Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide a case on the constitutionality of the new combinations of lethal injection drugs that some states are using to execute prisoners and which critics say cause intense suffering."

Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal: "The coming presidential contest is ushering in an epochal shift: the arrival of candidate-specific nonprofits, personalized vehicles for a politician's supporters to raise and spend unlimited cash -- completely clandestinely. It is poised to yield a campaign season more dominated by secret money than any election since Watergate.... By raising money through 'social welfare' nonprofits, these not-yet-candidates [-- Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal & John Kasich] are avoiding disclosure of both their financiers and what, exactly, they are financing.... In other words, for the first time in a generation, there will be a clear avenue for America's richest to secretly spend an unchecked sum to choose their party's nominee for the White House." CW: Thanks, Supremes! ...

That these five justices persist in invalidating [campaign finance] regulations under a perverse and unwarranted interpretation of the First Amendment is, to be blunt, a travesty. These decisions will come to be counted as among the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court. -- Constitutional scholar Geoffrey Stone

... Sean McElwee & Liz Kennedy, in Salon, show another major way in which Citizens United has eroded democracy: "... Americans have very little voice in democracy, and increasingly feel that their government is not responsive. Low voting rates, particularly among the poor (far below average among OECD countries), are a symptom of our crisis of democracy. A recent poll finds that 54 percent of Americans who don't vote say they don't pay attention to politics because the political system is too corrupt."

Burgess Everett & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Top Senate Republicans are considering gutting the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees -- a move that could yield big rewards for whichever party controls the White House and Senate after 2016. The move, still in its early stages, reflects growing GOP confidence in its electoral prospects next year. But it could also have a major immediate impact if a justice such as 81-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg steps down, making it far easier for President Barack Obama to get a replacement confirmed. The proposed change would expand on the dramatic move Democrats made in 2013, when they killed the 60-vote hurdle for executive branch nominations and almost all judicial nominees."

Dan Merida & Cassie Spodak of CNN: "Hillary Clinton did not have 65 Secret Service agents protecting her in Canada on Wednesday, a Secret Service source told CNN, despite a report from a Canadian radio station to the contrary." Drudge, the Weekly Standard & other conservative media picked up the false story.

Orrin Hatch -- Hypocrite of the Week. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is one of six Republican senators who joined an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to gut one of the core provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Yet the central claim of that brief -- and, indeed, of the entire lawsuit -- was rejected during the debate over the law by none other than Sen. Orrin Hatch.... In his brief..., Hatch claims that the law 'provides that premium subsidies are available only through an exchange established by a State'.... Yet..., back in 2010, Hatch co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed [in which he wrote,]

A third constitutional defect in this ObamaCare legislation is its command that states establish such things as benefit exchanges.... This is not a condition for receiving federal funds, which would still leave some kind of choice to the states.

... CW: Hatch's about-face is related to the GOP's general rejection of science. If what was once a fact becomes inconvenient, it's A-okay to pretend that a counterfact is accurate. As Krugman says, "Facts have a liberal bias." Ergo, for conservatives, objective facts can be so inconvenient they must be denied. Right Wing World is necessarily surreal. ...

     ... Update: Contributor Jack M. cites another good example of this phenomenon in today's comments: "See Frist, Bill in the matter of Terri Schiavo."

Presidential Race

All You Need to Know about the Republican Party in One Sentence. Take it Away, Benjy: Steve King "now stands to play a major role vetting the party's next nominee." CW: It's official. The inmates have taken over the asylum.

Via Mediaite.When asked whether or not she would consider a run for president, the woman in the photo above said, "It doesn't have to be myself, but yes ... happy to drive that competition, because competition will make everyone better and produce more and be more candid regarding their solutions they will offer this country. I am very interested in that competitive process and, again, not necessarily me." Palin will speak at Steve King's lovely get-together. With video. ...

... Andrew Kirell of Mediaite: "As you can see, the men are holding up a poster that reads 'FUC_ YOU, MICHAEL MOORE' with crosshairs replacing the Os, and the 'K' strangely missing from the first word (Why bother censoring yourself when you're already going all-out?). She also autographed the poster.... For those curious, the man to the left is Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer, who also posted another picture of the same moment to his Facebook, asking fans to make it go viral." CW: Way to show you're "honorable," Dakota. I'm waiting for Jeb Bush to complain about the coarsening of the GOP nomination race.

Beyond the Beltway

German Lopez of Vox: "Protesters around the country are once again speaking out against racial disparities in police use of force in response to a video that shows two Bridgeton, New Jersey, officers shooting and killing a black man as he held his hands up. A dashboard camera recorded the encounter, including the moments police pulled over a car and shot and killed the passenger, 36-year-old Jerame Reid.... Between 2012 and 2014, [Officer Roger] Worley[, who is white] was involved in 23 uses of force and [Officer Braheme] Days[, who is black] in 11, according to records obtained by the Associated Press. Other officers in the Bridgeton Police Department were involved in more incidents of use of force. The Associated Press found Days and Worley were also the subjects of multiple complaints alleging abuses of power over the past two years, but all the complaints were dismissed."

Whazza Matta wid Hizzonor? Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: New York City "Mayor Bill de Blasio is not wavering in his support for Sheldon Silver. Asked by reporters at a gathering of mayors in Washington on Friday about his belief in the integrity of Mr. Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly who was arrested Thursday on corruption charges, Mr. de Blasio characterized his fellow Democrat as a staunch ally who had 'followed through on every commitment that he made' in pursuit of the mayor's legislative agenda for New York City." CW: Yo, Bill. He's still a crook. Alleged, that is. Alleged.

Kevin Cirilli of the Hill: "Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana was a bad idea, the state's governor said Friday. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed the 2012 decision by voters to make pot legal, said the state still doesn't fully know what the unintended consequences of the move will be."

News Ledes

Guardian: "The Pentagon and the White House are pushing back on reports that the Obama administration is pausing drone strikes and other counterterrorism operations in Yemen, amidst the abrupt collapse of a critical partner government. Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said both 'unilateral and partnered' operations conducted by the US in Yemen against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) 'are not suspended'."

New York Times: "The Japanese government expressed outrage at an image released Saturday that appeared to show the decapitated body of one of two Japanese hostages captured by Islamic State militants, and President Obama condemned what he called a 'brutal murder.' The kidnappers had threatened to kill the men if a Friday deadline passed for a $200 million ransom from Japan. Hours before Mr. Obama's statement, the United States and Japanese governments said that they were working to authenticate the video containing the image."

NBC News: "President Barack Obama and the First Lady will travel to Saudi Arabia to pay respects following the death of King Abdullah, the White House said early Saturday. Obama will cut short an official trip to India and will fly to Riyadh on Tuesday to meet the new King Salman, spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement. Vice President Joe Biden, who had been due to fly to Saudi Arabia, 'will remain in Washington' the statement said."

Goodbye, Mr. Cub. New York Times: "Ernie Banks, the greatest power-hitting shortstop of the 20th century and an unconquerable optimist whose sunny disposition never dimmed in 19 seasons with the perennially stumbling Chicago Cubs, died Friday. He was 83." Banks' Chicago Sun-Times obituary is here.

Friday
Jan232015

Gripe o'the Day

How Not to Write a Comment

Marie, why haven't you posted articles that show that the family farm of Senator Ernst received almost a half million dollars in subsidies. I wonder if she hypocritically is against food stamps too. -- A Reality Chex Commenter

Make your comment to a Reality Chex post that is two days old and has nothing to do with the issue you're raising. That way, almost no one will read it. (I saw it only because Squarespace e-mailed it to me.)

Complain I'm not doing my job by failing to post something that is of interest to you.

Don't bother to share a link to the article or story you think I should have linked.

Don't bother to read the comment of a contributor who did have the decency to provide a link to a story you complain I didn't highlight.

Don't bother to read my response to the commenter, wherein I explained why I didn't think the story was helpful.

Don't bother to respond to me when I write you a personal e-mail detailing why I thought your comment was off-base.

Suggest that somebody else should find the answer to something you're "wondering" about when a one-stop Google search would answer your question.

Don't bother to apologize to the commenter who did post the link you wanted to see on Reality Chex.

Just be an all-around dick in two short sentences.

BTW, I see that Snopes has subsequently posted a rebuttal to the Ernst-Is-a-Farm-Subsidy-Freeloader meme. The Snopes writer agrees with me in toto.

Thursday
Jan222015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 23, 2015

Tim Egan: "... if you look beyond capital gasbags, and consider the big ideas in Obama's [SOTU] speech, you can see the inevitability of his philosophy.... Eventually, if Obama's finish matches the flourish of the last two months, the United States will resemble the country he envisioned on Tuesday night. Long odds make for better endings." ...

... Greg Sargent: "To hear Republicans and conservatives tell it, the only two elections that mattered in the last decade were those that took place in 2010 and 2014. Thus, when President Obama, in his State of the Union address, took the extraordinarily brazen step of using the high-profile occasion to outline a series of proposals he and his party support, Republicans widely treated it as proof that Obama is ignoring What America Really Wants, which was supposedly laid out for all to see in the last election. Fortunately, this morning Gallup posted a piece recapping what its polling shows about what the American people actually think of the proposals Obama outlined. The key economic proposals, it turns out, have broad support."

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Senate on Thursday again voted to reject two measures related to the Keystone XL pipeline that declared that humans are a cause of climate change -- the second set of votes on the issue in two days. Senators are using the Keystone debate to argue over climate issues. The Democrats want to force their Republican colleagues to come out one way or another on whether they believe humans have a role in changes to the climate and the rise of global temperatures. Republicans telegraphed their intent to attack President Obama's climate policy agenda. Mr. Obama is expected to veto the underlying bill that would force federal approval of the Keystone pipeline and allow construction to begin. Still, the debate has led to the first Senate floor votes in eight years on climate change measures."

Week one, we had a Speaker election that didn't go as well as a lot of us would have liked. Week two, we spent a lot of time talking about deporting children, a conversation a lot of us didn't want to have. Week three, we're debating reportable rape and incest -- again, not an issue a lot of us wanted to have a conversation about. I just can't wait for week four. -- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.)

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "Tens of thousands of Americans descended on Washington for the annual March For Life on Thursday only to see House Republicans melt down over their signature issue: abortion." ...

... Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "House Republicans struggled on Thursday to mend another unwelcome rift that threatens to tarnish their party's image with women and younger voters, shelving a contentious bill that would outlaw most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Party leaders, facing a revolt from Republican women members who objected that the legislation did not do enough to accommodate victims of rape, instead called a vote on a separate but more limited measure to forbid the use of taxpayer money for abortions. It passed 239 to 179, with only one Republican voting no. But the vote tally masked a divide so deep that some conservatives left the Capitol saying they did not know when Congress could take up the issue again, despite pledges from leaders in both chambers to do so now that Republicans controlled the House and the Senate." ...

... Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said the [modified] legislation is 'nonsense' for many reasons, including its tax hike on small businesses. The bill 'penalizes small businesses that offer comprehensive health coverage to female employees,' Pingree said. 'It's just outrageous.'" CW: Who says Republicans won't raises taxes? ...

... Steve King Had the Perfect Solution! Ed Kilgore: "Remember when you hear that this fiasco was produced by a 'revolt of moderate Republicans' that Marsha Blackburn -- not a 'moderate' by any measurement -- was in the middle of it. Maybe she can have a discussion of the mess with Iowa's Steve King, whose Iowa Freedom Summit she is attending this weekend along with half the 2016 presidential field. King offered a way out of the 'reported rape' problem yesterday: 'I would not make exceptions for rape and incest, and then the reporting requirement would not be necessary.'" ...

... Gene Robinson: "There they go again. Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over ... abortion and rape.... It's important to understand that the 'Pain-Capable' bill was never anything more than an act of political fantasy. The only purpose of the planned vote was to create an 'event' that the annual antiabortion March for Life, held Thursday in Washington, could celebrate.... There is no generally accepted scientific basis for the premise of the 'Pain-Capable' bill. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no legitimate research supporting the idea that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks."

... John Cole of Balloon Juice: "... much press has been given to the notion that the women in the GOP caucus were afraid of the optics of this kind of bill being passed so early in congress, but I think the real reason they are balking is because it is a very extreme bill that is completely unnecessary, and folks who actually have and use their ladyparts might have a different idea how awful this bill is than some southern male godbothering jackass." ...

... Erin Ryan of Jezebel: "Today, on the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling on Roe v. Wade, let's take a moment to pause, reflect, and thank our lucky fucking stars that we have men like Lindsey Graham in Washington to bloviate about what's best for women's bodies." ...

... Scott Lemieux, in LGM, explains Roe v. Wade to the risible right. ...

... The White Man's Party, Ctd. James Downie of the Washington Post: During this week's SOTU address, & "Not for the first time, President Obama called for legislation 'that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.' Last year, when the president made the same call, both parties applauded. This year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and many Republicans stayed firmly in their seats.... It's tough to avoid the conclusion that many Republicans, including Boehner, simply care about female voters so little that they won't even go through the motions anymore of expressing 'support' for women. Already, though, the GOP is seeing the damage of ignoring women in its own caucus.... What should have been a smooth coordination with Thursday's big pro-life march in Washington collapsed into shambles.... If the party doesn't change its attitude, it will see the same disaster play out on a grander scale with female voters." ...

... Quit complaining, all you whiney-babies. The ladies are the problem. Ali Weinberg of ABC News: "Republican women candidates must fight the perception that they are more moderate than male primary opponents simply because they are female, a group of pollsters and Republican leaders said Wednesday morning. One of the most effective ways women can do this is to downplay attributes typically associated with females, including a penchant for compromise, they said."

Fernando Espuelas of Univision in a Hill opinion piece: "It's difficult to imagine how Republicans can be competitive in 2016 with a 'defend the wealthy and push down the middle class' message. As one prominent conservative thinker recently wrote, 'Republicans are likely to lose the 2016 presidential election" if the GOP is once again positioned as the water carrier for its wealthy donors and doesn't embrace a pro-middle class set of policies that addresses the serious drop in middle-class spending power that has occurred since President Reagan first experimented with trickle-down policies in the 1980s.'" ...

... CW: Wait, wait, Fernando. They get it. At least some in the GOP now know they have to pay lip service to the evils of growing inequality:

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Someone up the GOP food chain seems to have decided that inequality and poor people now belong in everyone's talking points, class warfare be damned.... For the 'compassionate conservatism' reboot to be convincing and guilt-alleviating this time around, though, Republicans need to offer strong anti-poverty proposals of their own. So far -- with the exception of Paul Ryan's plan last year -- we've mostly heard more of the same tax-cutting, deregulating shtick, whose relevance to inequality and poverty is tenuous at best." ...

... CW: Actually, Catherine, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) has a plan to help some poor people, especially minorities: lower the minimum wage. (I think maybe McClintock stole this excellent idea from advocate-for-the-poor Michele Bachmann):

... David Edwards of the Raw Story: "California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock said on Thursday that the minimum wage should not be raised because low pay was necessary for minorities and other unskilled workers who were not worth more than $7 an hour." CW: Edwards somewhat twists McClintock's words, but I don't see how you can read the sense of McClintock's remarks in any other way. He admits that $7/hour is not a living wage. But, hey, it's okay for minorities &, say, divorced women with children who have never worked outside the home before. Let 'em starve. ...

... Laura Clawson of Daily Kos: "Seriously, [McClintock] just swept 'minorities' into the hopper with teenagers and people who've never had a job as people who cannot possibly expect to be paid enough to raise a family and would be rendered 'permanently unemployable' if for some insane reason the government were to require companies to pay them family-supporting money." ...

... CW: Don't know why Clawson is so outraged. Why, at some lousy minimum wages jobs -- like the ones at a Virginia McDonald's franchise -- minorities allegedly can't get jobs at all. Because they don't "fit the profile" of these fine eateries:

... McRacist? Bruce Horovitz of USA Today: "Ten former McDonald's workers on Thursday filed a civil rights lawsuit against the fast-food giant -- alleging racism and sexual harassment -- in a case almost certain to test just how responsible McDonald's is for the actions of its franchisees. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleges that the company last May simultaneously fired more than a dozen black workers who 'didn't fit the profile' desired at its restaurants. In the lawsuit, nine African-American workers and one Hispanic worker claim they were subjected to 'rampant racial and sexual harassment' by supervisors at three restaurants run by McDonald's franchisee Michael Simon, who operates Soweva Co. The workers also are claiming wrongful termination."

Rick Rojas of the New York Times: "A federal judge has decided to make permanent an injunction overturning Arizona's ban on issuing driver's licenses to young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children and spared from deportation by President Obama in 2012. Judge David G. Campbell of Federal District Court issued the permanent injunction on Thursday, citing the 'irreparable harm' caused to the young immigrants by not being able to have a license under an executive order issued by former Gov. Jan Brewer. Ms. Brewer, a Republican who left office this month, argued that President Obama did not have the authority to act unilaterally in deferring deportations." ...

... CW: Looks like a mean-spirited governor "did not have the authority" to decide the Constitutional limits of presidential power. Funny that. The decision is very good news. Campbell is a Bush II appointee. As ACLU lawyer Dan Pochoda said (cited in Rojas' story), "I think it's effectively the end." It should never have begun. Let's hope Campbell's ruling discourages other governors & legislatures from punishing DREAMers.

** Roberts' Dilemma. Greg Sargent interviews Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe on King v. Burwell, the case before the Supreme Court in which the plaintiffs pretend that the ACA dictates that health insurance subsidies are available only to residents of states which have established their own insurance exchanges. Tribe: "There is a fundamental legal principle about not tricking and pulling the rug out from under states. The fact that there might be chaos in the insurance markets, as well as a serious disappointment of justified expectations on the part of states, all fit into a legal construct the Chief Justice believes in." ...

... Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "The people who could lose their health insurance as a result of a Supreme Court decision this year are predominantly white, Southern, employed and middle-aged, according to an Urban Institute analysis." CW: Um, in other words, the Republican base. Yet the GOP leadership is cheering the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, on the theory that if King wins, the Congress can repeal & replace the ACA with a big nothingburger. If the Supremes rule for King, I think the GOP has a problem, not an "opportunity," as Senate Leader McConnell claims.

John Bresnahan & Jake Sherman of Politico: "A liberal watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert alleging that he improperly used campaign funds to cover his expenses from a recent trip to London. In a filing with the Office of Congressional Ethics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) claims that Gohmert may have violated House rules by charging nearly $6,300 to his campaign account for the late November trip. Members are barred from using campaign funds to cover personal expenses.... Anne Weismann, CREW's interim executive director, [said,] 'I would note that [Federal Election Commission] rules might have permitted it, but House rules do not. The real issue here is who paid for it. Campaign funds were used for a trip that under no stretch of the imagination can you say is campaign related.'"

Paul Krugman: "... Europe's economy was wrecked in the name of responsibility. True, there have been times when being tough meant reducing deficits and resisting the temptation to print money. In a depressed economy, however, a balanced-budget fetish and a hard-money obsession are deeply irresponsible. Not only do they hurt the economy in the short run, they can -- and in Europe, have -- inflict long-run harm, damaging the economy's potential and driving it into a deflationary trap that's very hard to escape." Somebody e-mail this to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, please (see yesterday's Commentariat).

Dear U.S. Congressional Ignoramuses: Please, please, please, please give diplomacy with Iran a chance. Yours truly, Laurent Fabius, Philip Hammond, Frank-Walter Steinmeier & Federica Mogherini , the foreign ministers of France, Great Britain, Germany & the E.U., respectively, in a Washington Post op-ed ...

... Byron Tau of the Wall Street Journal: "Citing the need to remain neutral in the upcoming Israeli elections, the White House said President Barack Obama won't meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits in March. 'As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,' said ... a spokeswoman for the National Security Council." See also today's comments. ...

... Calev Ben-David of Bloomberg: "Israeli opposition lawmakers criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, calling it a blatant political move at the height of Israel's general election campaign.... The opposition Meretz Party said it would file a complaint with the Central Elections Committee demanding that it prohibit Israeli television and radio stations from broadcasting Netanyahu's congressional address. 'This is a blatant violation of campaign laws,' Meretz spokeswoman Aya Mizrachi said by phone." ...

... Charles Pierce: "This whole thing is a mess, a ludicrous misuse of the institutions of American government to throw sand in the gears of a policy initiative of which Netanyahu disapproves being formulated by a president of whom Boehner disapproves, and one that is placing a very large thumb on the scales of an Israeli election.... What Boehner's doing is an embarrassment to diplomacy and to the political processes both here and in Israel. Allies don't do this stuff."

... Paul Waldman gets real about the "unwavering" partnership of the U.S. & Israel: "For years we've had one party (the Republicans) that is fervently committed to the right-wing Likud's vision for Israel, and another party (the Democrats) that is much more committed to the Israeli Labor party's vision. When each holds the White House, they put those beliefs into policy. But both will say only that we all have a bipartisan commitment to 'support' the Jewish state, as though what 'support' means is always simple and clear."

Shahan Mufti, in the New Republic, doesn't say so, but he does show that Mohandas Gandhi & Pope Francis were on the same page. A thoughtful essay.

Presidential Race

Gary Langer of ABC News: "Hillary Clinton's potential place in history and her husband's tenure in the White House boost her presidential prospects, while Jeb Bush's political legacy and Mitt Romney's 2012 run for the office are negatives, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds. Clinton leads both in hypothetical head-to-head matchups at this early stage -- as well as Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee alike." ...

... Amie Parnes of the Hill: "Major donors are ready to announce huge financial commitments to Hillary Clinton as soon as she announces a second run for the White House, according to Clinton allies and Democratic fundraisers. The Clinton team wants to build excitement about her campaign launch, which is expected in March or April. The money blitz would be a show of Clinton's strength meant to scare away potential primary rivals."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney did not emerge from a Salt Lake City meeting on Thursday with a proposal about how to reconcile their competing plans to run for the White House next year, advisers to both men indicated after the talk.... The meeting was cordial...." ...

... Guess I'll Have to Get out the Old Flip-Flops. Michelle Price of the AP: "Mitt Romney says one of the biggest challenges facing the country is climate change and that global solutions are needed to combat it." ...

... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "For Romney, this is his second about-face on climate change." ...

... Steve M.: "Mitt Romney's 2016 presidential campaign is now pretty much over.... He's a Republican with presidential ambitions, so I don't know what the hell's gotten into him.... Romney simply can't get the 2016 Republican nomination if he's saying that climate change is a problem that needs to be dealt with.... Maybe he'll flip-flop again on the climate. (Would you put that past him?) He'll have to, because this is going to be a litmus test in the 2016 primaries. And he's failing it." ...

... Rebecca Leber of the New Republic: "took one day for the party of climate change denial to rediscover science -- a few of them, anyway. Mitt Romney ... told a Utah audience, 'I'm one of those Republicans who thinks we are getting warmer and that we contribute to that.'.... Then, 15 Republican senators voted in favor of a conservative climate amendment that said 'human activity contributes to climate change.' One of those senators was Rand Paul.... The 2016 GOP primary won't feature the climate-change debate that the country needs, but it step in the right direction -- away from ignorance, toward reason."

Jonathan Karl of ABC News: "Sen. Marco Rubio [R-Fla.] has begun taking concrete steps toward launching a presidential bid, asking his top advisors to prepare for a campaign, signing on a leading Republican fundraiser, and planning extensive travel to early-voting states in the coming weeks, ABC News has learned."

Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register: "The team that is building Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's political organization for a possible presidential campaign has brought on a GOP strategist with Iowa ties: David Polyansky..... Walker will be in Iowa Saturday as one of a couple dozen Republicans who will speak at U.S. Rep. Steve King's all-day Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines. [Mike] Huckabee and several other presidential-maybes are among the featured speakers." Via Greg Sargent. ...

... Ed Kilgore is really looking forward to "the Steve King/Citizens United Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend in Des Moines." He borrows an analysis from the Iowa Republican on what each candidate needs to do at the summit to "ignite the passions" of attendees.

Senate Race

Christopher Cadelago of the Sacramento Bee: "Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said Thursday he will not be a candidate to succeed U.S. Senate Barbara Boxer and instead will continue his focus on helping fellow Democrats and working to reverse the effects of global climate change.... Steyer came to his decision after watching President Barack Obama and California Gov. Jerry Brown give recent speeches in which they made protecting the environment a top priority. Steyer's exit from the field shifts attention to a possible run for governor in 2018, and more immediately to other potential Boxer successors such as former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has indicated he is looking closely at the Senate seat."

Beyond the Beltway

Shaila Dewan & Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "... interviews and recently released video and police records show how a series of miscommunications, tactical errors and institutional failures by the Cleveland police cascaded into one irreversible mistake": the shooting death of Tamir Rice by a young policeman.

Charles Pierce: Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev "released the answers from 1373 potential jurors who'd filled out questionnaires at the request of federal judge George O'Toole, who apparently is determined to hang onto this case with his teeth, if necessary. They found that nearly 70 percent of the respondents already believed Tsarnaev to be guilty of the offenses with which he is charged, offenses that could send him to the federal death house.... What this case needs is justice, reached in as cool and rational a manner as possible, and that is plainly impossible in Boston. What this case needs is a jury, which it is evidently impossible to seat in Boston."

** New York Times Editors: "As astonishing as it was to see Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly, surrender to the F.B.I. on corruption charges Thursday morning, it is even more incredible that he can choose to go on serving in his job while he defends himself against bribery and kickback charges involving millions of dollars."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "The Obama administration has been forced to suspend counterterrorism operations with Yemen in the aftermath of the collapse of its government, according to U.S. officials, a move that abruptly eases pressure on al-Qaeda's most dangerous franchise.... U.S. officials said that the Yemeni security services that provided much of the intelligence that sustained [the] U.S. air campaign are now controlled by Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who have seized control of much of the capital."

AP: "Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine rejected a previously signed peace deal Friday and launched a new multipronged offensive against Ukrainian government troops, upending recent European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting." ...

... New York Times: "Unexpectedly, at the height of the Ukrainian winter, war has exploded anew on a half-dozen battered fronts across eastern Ukraine, accompanied by increasing evidence that Russian troops and Russian equipment have been pouring into the region again."

Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia's new king joined in prayers Friday before the simple burial of the country's late ruler, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, even as attention shifted to the new map of royal succession that puts a younger generation closer to the throne. King Salman acted quickly to clarify the top tier of the Saudi hierarchy, seeking to project stability and resolve at a time when the country faces challenges on multiple fronts, including threats from Islamist militants and a political breakdown in neighboring Yemen."

Washington Post: "In separate news conferences after [U.S. & Cuban officials met], at the end of their first round of talks Thursday, both sides pronounced it 'productive,' respectful and positive. But both acknowledged that 'profound differences' remain."

Wired: "Barrett Brown, who became a cause célèbre after he was charged with crimes related to the 2011 Stratfor hack, will not go free as his supporters hoped. He was sentenced [Thursday] in Texas to five years and three months in prison. Brown was facing a possible eight-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to two charges related to aiding-and-abetting and obstruction of justice and a separate charge involving threats he made to an FBI agent."

Wednesday
Jan212015

The Commentariat -- Jan. 22, 2015

Matt Apuzzo & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The Justice Department has begun work on a legal memo recommending no civil rights charges against a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., who killed an unarmed black teenager in August, law enforcement officials said. That would close the politically charged case in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The investigation by the F.B.I., which is complete, found no evidence to support civil rights charges against the officer, Darren Wilson, the officials said."

Jake Sherman of Politico: "House Speaker John Boehner is setting up his most dramatic foreign policy confrontation with President Barack Obama to date, inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak about Iran in front of a joint session of Congress on Feb. 11. Netanyahu is a fierce opponent of the emerging U.S. nuclear agreement with the Islamic republic, and has served as Obama's foil, of sorts.... Netanyahu's speech could present a spectacle rarely seen in Washington -- the leader of another nation, standing just blocks from the White House at the invitation of Congress to rebut the United States' foreign policy. In fact, Boehner did not consult with the White House or the State Department about inviting Netanyahu -- a snub that White House spokesman Josh Earnest called 'a departure' from protocol." ...

... Dylan Scott of TPM: "... experts on American-Israeli relations expressed shock that Boehner had invited Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran next month. One described it as an effort to 'humiliate' and 'embarrass' Obama as the two sides dig in over Iran.... Netanyahu's visit would also come about a month before Israeli's March 17 elections, and he has received substantial contributions from Americans.... But as TPM's Josh Marshall noted, there is some evidence that his perch as prime minister might be precarious as voters head to the polls." ...

The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. -- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)

So we're having a reasonable, calm discussion about this subject. -- Paul Waldman

... Josh Rogin & Eli Lake of Bloomberg View: "The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has broken ranks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling U.S. officials and lawmakers that a new Iran sanctions bill in the U.S. Congress would tank the Iran nuclear negotiations. Already, the Barack Obama administration and some leading Republican senators are using the Israeli internal disagreement to undermine support for the bill, authored by Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Robert Menendez, which would enact new sanctions if current negotiations falter." Cole also explains how disastrous a war with Iran likely would be: "more like the US war in Vietnam than Iraq." ...

... Juan Cole: "If [the right wing psychopaths in Washington DC and Tel Aviv] can over-ride Obama's veto and scuttle the negotiations, they set us up for a war down the line, as Obama warned in the SOTU. In contrast, professional Israeli intelligence analysts are warning against new sanctions and any torpedoing of the Iran talks. Because they deal in the coin of pragmatism and the real world. Readers should please let their congressional representatives know they would prefer not to be subjected to this disaster. That Netanyahu is an unreliable narrator should be obvious by now."

Sahil Kapur of TPM: "The Republican-controlled Senate voted on Wednesday to reject a symbolic provision that said human activity contributes to climate change. The vote was 50-49 for a Democratic amendment that did nothing other than declare that 'climate change is real' and that 'human activity significantly contributes to climate change.' The amendment by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) fell short of the 60 votes required to pass. The vote came shortly after Republicans surprised Democrats at the last minute by supporting an earlier amendment by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to express a 'sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.' That amendment passed 98-1 after Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) ... signed on.... The Whitehouse amendment did not take a position on whether humans play a role."

E. J. Dionne: Obama uttered "one of the more polemical passages ever offered in a State of the Union address. 'At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious,' he declared, 'that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we've seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health-care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years.' Good news, indeed, and in telling the Republicans that all their predictions turned out to be wrong, he was also reminding his fellow citizens which side, which policies and which president had brought the country back." CW: Except as contributor Forrest M. pointed out yesterday, he used the passive voice & resisted fingering Republicans.

Jonathan Chait argues that President Obama's SOTU speech was a long-delayed correction to "his stammering first presidential debate against Mitt Romney." Chait also draws parallels between Moderate Mitt & George W. Bush's 2008 campaign promise "of a tax cut that would give the biggest share to the poor [which] was based on lies."

CW: I'm not quite sure if Heather of Crooks & Liars accused David Brooks of making a racist remark on the Nice Polite Republican public television network, but in case she didn't, I will. The notion that President Obama has to "earn" Republican comity is the way Nice Polite Republicans say, "He's black." White folks are "entitled" to deference. Black people have to continually "earn" & re-earn their positions with a lot of steppin' & fetchin'. Winning the presidency twice, in the Mind of Brooks, is not payment enough to expect Republicans to do their jobs & meet a black president halfway. One of the "broken" parts of the GOP (see Jonathan Bernstein post linked below) is its inherent, pervasive racism. To them, Barack Obama is the president only by virtue of his having given things to blah people, & he will never escape being the black president. To me, he's the president. No adjective required.

NEW. Jon Stewart reviews the SOTU responses. The response by the "winner" of Stewart's Implody award is a classic:

Emily Atkin of Think Progress: "The official website for House Republicans has posted on YouTube a version of President Obama's State of the Union address which cuts out comments where the President was critical of Republican rhetoric on climate change.... In the website's 'enhanced webcast' of the State of the Union speech, President Obama's comments criticizing Republicans for saying they are 'not scientists' when it comes to climate change are erased.... Update: [Speaker John] "Boehner's Press Secretary Michael Steel told ThinkProgress Wednesday afternoon that the video edits were not intentionally made. 'It was inadvertent.' Steel said via e-mail. 'We are working with YouTube to figure out what happened.'" Translation: "Never thought we'd get caught."

From the GOP Book of Etiquette. Sahil Kapur: "Republicans were irked by President Barack Obama's caustic reminder in his State of the Union speech that he defeated them twice. 'I've run my last campaign,' Obama said toward the end of the nationally televised address. Republicans in the chamber applauded derisively, which prompted the president to ad-lib a zinger which wasn't in his prepared remarks: 'I know because I won both of them.'... In the Capitol after the speech, Republicans expressed displeasure at being jabbed by the president in the same speech where he asked for their cooperation." Kapur goes on to cite some responses from "irked" Republicans. Here's the clip, via Akhilleus:. When you listen to the clip, you'll hear Republicans laughing at their clever applause. Ergo, it's hilarious when Republicans heckle the President; when he jabs back, it's "rudeness."

Manolo Merita. Doktor Zoom of Wonkette: "Sen. Joni Ernst did her best in her robotic SOTU response to let us know that she empathizes with folks facing hard times:

You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

... "And thus was born the #breadbags hashtag." Pretty funny. Also see yesterday's SOTU comments. ...

... Ernst's actual shoes, courtesy of contributor MAG:

... Meghan Keneally of ABC News: "A photo shared by Ernst's team shows the camouflage-themed high heels." Keneally says the shoes are "a military shoutout." (See JJG's comment in yesterday's SOTU post.)

... "The Bread Bags of Empathy." Paul Waldman: "... what, precisely, is the point of the bread bag story supposed to be?... The point is affinity.... There's a second part of this message..., which is that because I'm just like you, when it comes time to make decisions about the policies that will affect you, I will have your interests at heart. But there's a problem with that, because ... Joni Ernst's beliefs about economics are no different from Mitt Romney's, Jeb Bush's, or those of any other Republican whose childhood feet were shod in loafers hand crafted from the finest Siberian tiger leather. There's almost perfect unanimity within the GOP on economic issues....

And it's inspiring that someone like Joni Ernst can start life in the most modest of circumstances, fitted as a baby with tiny booties made from Hostess Twinkie wrappers, then graduate to bread bags as she learned to castrate hogs (they do help keep the blood off your one good pair of shoes), and eventually grow up to do the bidding of the nation's noblest plutocrats. It shows what's possible in this great country of ours.

... CW: It's worth noting, as others have but I have not, that back when poverty forced little Joni to wear bread bags to save her one & only pair of Sears & Roebuck saddle shoes, Ronaldus Maximus was ruling this nation of shoeless serfs.... What makes Joni as pathetic as she is wicked is that she has no idea she is being had by the masters who helped her compose her Bread Bag of Nothing speech.

Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg Politics: "The real problem preventing compromise isn't inherent in the political system. It's something particularly wrong with the Republican Party, which has become increasingly hostile to the very notion of compromise.... A broken Republican Party is dangerous as an opposition party in a Madisonian system, which requires compromise. But it might be more dangerous in a parliamentary system, which lets winners enact their agenda with little resistance. So unless something about the U.S. system is to blame for that Republican dysfunction -- and I don't think there is -- then institutional reform ... won't help and might be harmful."

GOP "Bait-and-Switch." Dana Milbank: "Just two weeks into the new Congress, they voted Tuesday afternoon to bring to the House floor their current priority: a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.... Abortion got barely a mention in last year's campaign, which led to unified Republican control of Congress.... A Gallup poll after the election found that fewer than 0.5 percent of Americans think abortion should be the top issue, placing it behind at least 33 other issues. But instead of doing what voters wanted, House Republicans are making one of their first orders of business a revival of the culture wars." ...

... Jake Sherman: "Republican leadership late Wednesday evening had to completely drop its plans to pass a bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks, and is reverting to old legislation that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions. The evening switch comes after a revolt from a large swath of female members of Congress, who were concerned about language that said rape victims would not be able to get abortions unless they reported the incident to authorities. The new legislation doesn't stand a chance to become law, but House Republican leadership wants to have some sort of pro-life bill on the floor Thursday when the anti-abortion March for Life comes to Washington."

** "Environmental Racism." Charles Blow: There is "inequality in the air we breathe."

Gail Collins: "Let's raise the gas tax." Even some Republicans -- but not Paul Ryan -- have conceded a gas tax hike might be doable.

Elizabeth Warren, in the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court appears poised to continue its systematic assault on our core civil rights laws. After gutting the Voting Rights Act just two years ago, the court set its sights on our country's fair housing laws when it heard oral arguments [Wednesday] in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project. As with the voting rights decision, a decision limiting the scope of the housing laws would ignore the will of Congress and undermine basic principles of racial equality. But there is even more at stake in the fair housing case, because the wrong decision would reduce economic opportunities for working families and raise the risk of another financial crisis.... Undercutting our fair housing laws also would increase the risk of another financial crisis."

Linda Greenhouse: "However the justices proceed to resolve the increasingly audacious claims of religious conscience in a post-Hobby Lobby, post-marriage equality world, it's safe to predict that politicians will be confronting these issues under the glare of a public spotlight. Republicans who expect the Supreme Court to give them a pass from having to take a stand are in for a rude surprise."

Justices Meet the Hoi Polloi. Adam Lerner of Politico: "A group of activists interrupted oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday to protest the fifth anniversary of a landmark campaign finance ruling. 'Overturn Citizens United,' shouted one woman, according to reports from inside the courtroom. 'One person, one vote,' said another person. 'We are the 99 percent,' said a third. Chief Justice John Roberts was heard muttering, 'Oh, please,' SCOTUSblog reported." ...

... Mark Walsh of ScotusBlog, in an update: "Kathleen L. Arberg, the Court's public information officer, said eight individuals were arrested in Wednesday's disturbance. Seven have been charged with violating a federal law against making 'a harangue or oration, or utter[ing] loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building,' as well as with violating two Court regulations. Arberg said those seven, along with the eighth individual, were also charged with 'conspiracy-related offenses' under District of Columbia law." CW was heard muttering, "Conspiracy?? Oh, please."

We Wear the White Hats. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone: "'American Sniper' is almost too dumb to criticize." CW: You might think this review should go in Infotainment because the story is supposed to be a "human" one, not a "political" one. But no: "The only thing that forces us to take it seriously is the extraordinary fact that an almost exactly similar worldview consumed the walnut-sized mind of the president who got us into the war in question." It is not exactly breaking news that war movies romanticize war, but Taibbi does a good job of expanding this specific example to how the genre absolves us from the burdens of critical thinking: "The movies used the struggles of soldiers as a kind of human shield protecting us from thinking too much about what we'd done in places like Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos."

Presidential Race

The Making of a Presidential Nominee 2016. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are scheduled to meet privately this week in Utah, raising the possibility that the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns that would split the Republican establishment next year, two prominent party members said Wednesday night." ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "Will they agree to let primary voters choose between them, or will Mitt challenge the Bush clan to a high-stakes version of the annual 'Romney Olympics'? Whatever happens, we look forward to seeing the moment acted out in an HBO movie." ...

... Michael Bender of Bloomberg Politics: "... Jeb Bush tore through Washington this week, impressing the lobbyists and potential donors he met for the first time and leaning on old family friends to help raise huge sums of money as he considers a run for the White House. According to multiple Republicans in attendance at events Tuesday and Wednesday, Bush simultaneously bemoaned the cost of modern presidential campaigns -- more than $2.35 billion in 2012 -- and pledged to not be left behind in the fundraising race." CW: A pretty good read; I liked this church-lady part: "Bush also criticized a White House video on Tuesday that promoted the president's State of the Union speech as a 'BFD,' saying that kind of language doesn't bespeak a seriousness that the U.S. should be signaling."

This GOP Candidate Is a Constitutional Scholar Igor Bobic of the Huffington Post: "Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee disputed what he called the 'notion of judicial supremacy' on Tuesday, arguing states would have the final say on gay marriage regardless of whether the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Huckabee, a conservative evangelical and potential 2016 presidential candidate, said a Supreme Court ruling, expected this year, would ultimately be moot because 'one branch of government does not overrule the other two.'" Somebody should tell Huck about Marbury v. Madison.

This GOP Candidate Is a Theologian. Ivey DeJesus of PennLive: "Devout Catholic and former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said he sometimes finds it 'very difficult' to listen to the comments Pope Francis makes on social issues.... Santorum said that when Francis speaks in interviews, 'he's giving his own opinions, which I certainly will listen to, but from my perspective, that doesn't reflect the idea that people shouldn't be fruitful and multiply....'" The Vatican walked back Francis's off-the-cuff remark, to which Santorum was referring, that couples need not "breed like rabbits." ...

... Charles Pierce: "Hey, Papa Francesco! Have I mentioned recently what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is?... Now Rick, a devout Catholic (just ask him) and a friend to all zygotes, has a very big sad when he listens to you."

This GOP Candidate Is an Economist. John Adams of the Great Falls (Montana) Tribune: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich [R] told a small group of Montana legislative Republicans they should not oppose expansion of Medicaid on the basis of 'strict ideology.' 'I gotta tell you, turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis, when people can lose their lives because they get no help, doesn't make a lot of sense to me,' Kasich told Republican lawmakers." CW: Hey, he's right there, but he's still blindingly stupid: "Kasich, a possible 2016 Republican presidential contender, is touring state legislatures across the West to drum up support for a constitutional convention to modify the U.S. Constitution to include a balanced budget amendment." Ask Paul Krugman about this (here or any number of other places). Kasich has no excuse: he was chair of the House Budget Committee & should be familiar with fiat money, but he doesn't. Also, um, he was a managing director of Lehman Brothers, right up till it notoriously collapsed. Via Greg Sargent.

Beyond the Beltway

Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: "Basking in an economic rebound but faced with an array of social concerns, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo presented his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, calling on New York lawmakers to control taxes and spending while addressing criminal justice, educational reforms and upstate fiscal difficulties." ...

... Chris Smith of New York: "In the past seven days, Governor Andrew Cuomo has run the campaign he didn't run last fall. He's dashed from Uniondale to Rochester to Mount Vernon to midtown, unveiling a barrage of proposals: to cut property taxes for middle-class homeowners by $1.7 billion, to steer juvenile offenders away from the adult criminal justice system, to create a billion-dollar broadband access program upstate, to build an AirTrain to La Guardia Airport, to raise the minimum wage, among many, many other things.... The capper came this afternoon, in Albany, in the bunkerlike auditorium across from the state capitol building, where the governor delivered both his State of the State address and 2015 budget presentation, and added such headline items as an independent monitor to review grand jury decisions when police officers are not indicted in brutality cases. Whew."

William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal authorities are expected to arrest Sheldon Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, on corruption charges on Thursday.... The investigation that led to the expected charges against Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, began after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March abruptly shut down an anticorruption commission he had created in 2013." ...

     ... UPDATE: "The speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was arrested on federal corruption charges on Thursday and accused of using the power of his office for more than a decade to secure millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks and then covering up his schemes, according to court documents."

Travis Getty of the Raw Story: "An upstate New York sheriff is encouraging residents of his county to ignore the state's handgun licensing law. Sheriff Thomas Lorey told a gathering of Oath Keepers" to throw their permit renewal letters in the garbage. "Oath Keepers are made up mostly of retired or active-duty law enforcement or military personnel who have pledged not to enforce or obey gun restrictions or other laws they deem unconstitutional."

Headline of the Day: "Bigamy Trial for Florida Congressman's Wife Delayed by Leaky Breast Implants." ...

... Mike Schneider of the AP: "A trial to determine whether U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson's wife committed bigamy when she wed the congressman has been delayed because she required emergency surgery to remove breast implants. The trial had been scheduled for Thursday in Orlando but is now set for March."

Katie Mettler of the Tampa Bay Times: White vigilante tackles older black man carrying a permitted gun into a WalMart. Sheriffs arrest vigilante for battery. "'Unfortunately he tackled a guy that was a law-abiding citizen,' [sheriff's spokesman Larry] McKinnon said. 'We understand it's alarming for people to see other people with guns, but Florida has a large population of concealed weapons permit holders.' The Sheriff's Office recommends that vigilante-inclined citizens refrain from taking matters into their own hands, especially when an incident is gun-related." ...

... Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice: "What could possibly go wrong?" Good post.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post: "Lutz Bachmann [no relation to Michele (that we know of)], the German leader of 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West,' (PEGIDA) has resigned after a picture emerged apparently showing him dressed up and posing like Adolf Hitler. The photo, published on the front page of the German tabloid Bild, reportedly came from Bachmann's Facebook account. The BBC quotes a PEGIDA movement spokesman as saying the photo was intended as a 'joke.'... Bachmann, a convicted burglar who helped found the anti-Islamization movement in October, has served as the public face of the group since then.... The [German magazine Dresdener] Morgenpost also published an image that shows Bachmann sharing a photo of a Ku Klux Klan member, captioned in English to read, 'Three k's a day keeps the minorities away.'" ...

... Reuters: "The leader of the fast-growing German anti-Muslim movement PEGIDA resigned on Wednesday after a photo of him posing as Hitler, and reports that he called refugees 'scumbags', prompted prosecutors to investigate him for inciting hatred."

News Ledes

New York Times: "Confronted with a deepening scandal, the president of Argentina abruptly reversed herself on Thursday, saying that the death of the lead prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center was not a suicide as she and other government officials had suggested. Instead, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner suggested that the prosecutor's death was part of what she hinted was a sinister plot to defame and destroy her."

New York Times: "Wendell H. Ford, a political moderate from Kentucky who served one term as governor and four as a senator, rising to become the Democratic whip, or assistant leader, in the early 1990s, died on Thursday at his home in Owensboro, Ky. He was 90." Thanks to James S. for the link. Also, see James' comment in today's thread.

New York Times: "King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who came to the throne in old age and earned a reputation as a cautious reformer even as the Arab Spring revolts toppled heads of state and Islamic State militants threatened the Muslim establishment that he represented, died on Friday, Saudi officials said. He was 90.... Abdullah's brother and crown prince, Salman, in a statement attributed to him on Saudi state television, announced the king's death and that he had assumed the throne." ...

... Washington Post: "That put the region's most important Sunni power and America's closest Arab ally in the hands of a 79-year old who is reportedly in poor health and suffering from dementia."

Washington Post: "Yemen's Western-backed president and his cabinet resigned Thursday amid deepening turmoil that left Shiite rebels in effective control and threw into question this nation's continued participation in the U.S. fight against terrorism. As President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi succumbed to an apparent coup attempt by the rebels, a government official confirmed that he had lost control over the military and intelligence agencies that coordinate with the United States in operations against al-Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate."